The scope of horoscope horror

My friendly local morning news team are discussing horoscopes today. This is, unfortunately, nothing new; I had to change the channel on New Year’s Day because their guest astrologer was doing my head in with her “Scorpios will come into some money in April” crap.

Today’s angle was the “news” that some astrologers want to change the birth dates that correspond to the different signs of the zodiac (H/T Noah Gray, on Facebook, for the link). Don’t worry, though – other astrologers don’t agree, so if your star sign is critical to your sense of identity (or if you have your star sign tattooed on your arse), you don’t have to change if you don’t want to.

(Even if the dates change, my sign won’t – I’d still be an Aquarius, by the skin of my teeth, under the new rules. You can imagine how relieved I am to learn that this major schism doesn’t affect me at all).

Now, I suppose I can understand so-called news programmes covering astrology. It’s still incredibly popular, after all, even if it has been pretty comprehensively debunked. And it’s a light, fluffy item they can cover with zero research, opting instead to compare old and potential new star signs with the meteorologist and traffic reporter. Whatever – I have the choice to switch off the TV and write a blog post instead, with some nice sensible podcasts playing in the background.

What bugs me is how ubiquitous astrology still is in daily life. People bring it up all the time, and I wish it was socially acceptable to mock them loudly. But unfortunately, the subject mostly arises in situations where I have to grit my teeth and nod politely, or – worse – join in. For example:

  • I once walked into my lovely mother-in-law’s house to see that she’d cut the New Year horoscope section out of the local paper, annotated each horoscope with the names of all family members (including me) who fall under that sign, and intended to keep the damn thing stuck up on the fridge (obscuring some awesome new photos of her grandkids) all year. But what can you say?!
  • My ex-boyfriend used to blame every single moment of indecision – from whether to move to a new lab to choosing between pizza and curry for dinner – on “maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini*”. (OK, I may have mocked him occasionally, saying “you’re a scientist, FFS!”, but he’d actually get upset about it, so I mostly stopped. Mostly).
  • An ex-flatmate once told me that things weren’t going to work out with the guy she’d been on a few dates with because “he’s a nice guy and all, but he’s a Capricorn”. OK then.
  • I remember some blog buddies who use Blogger being outraged a couple of years ago because adding your birth date to your profile meant automatically displaying your star sign, too – there was no way to separate the two.
  • In a project meeting with a mix of clinical and research colleagues, all senior to me, one person wished another a happy birthday. Another member of the team piped up with “ooh, it’s your birthday today?! That makes you, um, a Virgo, right?!” She then went round the table asking everyone else to say what sign they were.

This last one bothered me more than all the others put together. No-one else seemed to bat an eyelid, but I was astonished – I kept thinking “but we’re scientists! We’re here to discuss a cutting edge genomics-based translational research project!” I have the greatest of respect for everyone who was in the room that day – they’re lovely people and dedicated professionals – but c’mon. REALLY?! C’mon. I have to discuss my star sign politely and with no mocking, AT WORK?!

That’s asking a lot.

There has been one recent exception to my usual polite responses to horoscope conversations. I was at my friends’ daughter’s first birthday party, along with lot of other mutual friends and acquaintances. I may have had an afternoon beer or two, never a good idea for this lightweight. A woman I know well enough to know that this kind of topic is fairly typical for her was saying how nice it was that the birthday girl got to be a Cancer “because that’s a nice sign”. I nodded and smiled, but then she asked me what sign I am.

“Um, Aquarius”, I replied.

REALLY??!! NO WAY!!“, she replied. “Are you sure?”

(I was)

“You must be on the border with another sign, though?”

“Nope. I’m right in the middle of Aquarius, with an Aquarius moon and rising Aquarius”, I said.

(I only know this because my auntie bought my sister and me books about our star signs for our birthdays one year when we were teenagers).

NO WAY!!! I NEVER would have thought you were an Aquarius!!!!” she squealed. “Never in a million years!”

My reply?

“Well, what does that tell ya about the value of astrology?”

I don’t think she got it.

Maybe it’s because she’s from the sign of the bull.


*I just checked, and under the proposed new dates he’d actually be a Taurus. HAHAHAHAHA! Shall I email him and tell him?

(Rhetorical question. Things did not end well, to say the least (let’s just say that he cheated on me and as a result we both had to take an HIV test – negative, thank fuck) and we’ve had zero contact for ten years; I’m more than happy to keep it that way, whatever star sign he is!)

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in career, current affairs, drunkenness, family, idiocy, personal, pseudoscience, rants, television, the media. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The scope of horoscope horror

  1. Silver Fox says:

    I always thought that star signs were there to enable tacky pick up lines in bars. (And so you’d know for sure to who to run from – ie, the person who just used the tacky pick up line.)

  2. Hermitage says:

    I had an English teacher who would go around the class and tell you if you were going to pass or fail her class (and at life), using astrology as her excuse for being a narsty witch. Ofc, if she decided she didn’t like you at midterms, the meaning of your sign would suddenly shift to mean you were a twit-pansy.

    You can guess what my sign met, harrumph.

  3. chall says:

    ahhh…. how sweet. I am still the most awesome, fabulous, centered, famous and wonderful leader who is adored by most people! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I don’t know, I like some of the astrology as in “seeing if the moon is in that house, and the sun etc” at the date of my birthday , but I see it as a fun thing. Nothing that would rule my world or make me distinguish my “traits” (I think my upbringing would have more to do with it…. ) or who I fit with.

    I mean, I wouldn’t want to decide who to be friends with based on astrology…. better focusing on who they are and what they seem to be, right?

  4. This is the perfect ending to a horrible week. I’ve been battling with monkey, trying to get to campus for a 9 am lecture, found out I need to spend yet another $1000.00 of my fucking car and now I am no longer a PISCES!!!! This is horrible news, what am I supposed to divorce my husband who is the perfect match for me (He’s a cancer?). This is why we had so many arguement last year, bc we are not matched correctly. Fuck. Dude. Sigh

    Anyone know a good lawyer?

  5. Wow, thats the fastest posting of a bragging rights comment ever. Maybe I’ll actually win this years contest! Yay!!

    • chall says:

      Haha, aren’t Pisces supposed to be quiet and nice people, right? not funny ;P

      Although, so far I’d say we got the comment section covered great for being the first thing i saw too when I looked back today.

      (again, the shiny glorious humble leo shows herself …. *i so need to eat and not try and be funny on a blog on a Friday night*)

  6. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    You guys crack me up ๐Ÿ™‚

    Silver Fox, ah yes, the “jackass detector” use of horoscopes (and tacky pick-up lines in general). Always good!

    Hermitage, are you serious??!! That’s outrageous!

    I guess I should just be happy it wasn’t your science teacher… sigh.

    Chall, yeah, I get that not everyone who checks their horoscopes necessarily believes the whole astrology thing. But still, it seems to be coming up more frequently than ever, and most people in the examples above seem to take it somewhat seriously!

    ScientistMother, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But maybe he’s switched signs too, and you’re still just as compatible as ever?

    If not… my brother-in-law is a lawyer, but he’s in Calgary!

    Your timing was impeccable… I refreshed this post to make sure the new BRC links were showing up properly in the sidebar, noticed that one of them wasn’t, and then spotted your comment just before I went back to the dashboard to fix the other link! Nice work ๐Ÿ™‚

    • chall says:

      Cath: I’m sure they take it seriously. I just find it strange (odd?) that people think would think that everyone born on the same day would be alike! (I get the houses idea much more, since then at least there are some differences and similarities…. I’m all for the gray zone apparently? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

      • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

        I know – I had a couple of friends in high school who were born on the same day as me, and we were nothing alike!

  7. cromercrox says:

    I look forward to reading how astrology will react to the news that the Solar System is full of quite substantial bodies, not usually admitted in horoscopes, all of which should affect things. I’m not sure if they’ve accommodated Neptune, let alone Pluto, but once they’ve got those sorted out, what are they going to advise someone whose got a conjunction with Eris in the fifth house of Quaoar that’s running rings round Uranus? And there are now all these exoplanets. Avoid all washing-machine salesmen from Bradford, that’s what I always say. Always. But I’m a Taurus.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Reminds me of the parts in Mostly Harmless about having to reconfigure all the astrological charts to factor in the new planet, Rupert. And Trillian being kidnapped by aliens living on Rupert who wanted her to reconfigure all the charts from their point of view. Great stuff!

  8. Alyssa says:

    When I was running an Astronomy outreach program, I would constantly be asked about my sign, their sign, etc. etc.. It was always my pleasure to tell them that, in fact, the sun no longer sits in the constellations that the birthday zodiac was based on. It always astonished people that they might be a totally different sign – especially people who identified so closely with their sign ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Yeah, I bet this drives astronomers crazy! I’m glad you were able to perturb so many people ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Juniper Shoemaker says:

    I guess I should just be happy it wasnโ€™t your science teacher

    I resent this. I’m an English major. I think astrology is superstitious nonsense.

    Plus, no one knows how to write anymore. This includes many American scientists who sneer at English as “easy”. Had I the power to recommend a new public school curriculum for the U.S., I would request a more challenging one with equal emphases on English, math and science. (Loathsome, smug, callous, petty physics professors who officiously troll blogs and advocate for less emphasis on English than on math or science . . . But that’s a frothy rant for another day.)

    Would you believe that I overheard two science students in the medical school library discussing how one’s relationship with some guy she was dating “didn’t work out because he’s a Gemini”? No wonder China is kicking my nation’s ass.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      I absolutely didn’t mean to demean the subject of English. I loved studying English at high school, and would have kept it up for longer if we hadn’t had to specialise so early. Plus my Uncle is a retired English teacher (my parents and auntie are all retired modern languages teachers).

      BUT I stand by my statement. The primary reason I ever had any religious belief as a kid was because teachers I adored – teachers who were also telling me tangible things I could see with my own eyes, like 2+2=4 and the tides go out twice a day and come in twice a day – were also telling me that Jesus was the son of God and he died for my sins, as if it was just another fact like all the others.

      In an ideal world, no teacher would ever tell their students that religion / astrology / etc are facts just like all the other facts they teach. HOWEVER, if a teacher does decide to do that, I think it would do less damage if it’s the teacher who also teaches the analysis of fiction, myths and analogies, rather than the teacher who also teaches about tides and arithmetic and other fact-based fields.

      • Juniper Shoemaker says:

        I finally figured out what’s been bothering me about your reply. It implies that the study of literature doesn’t have any impact on people’s lives beyond entertainment. Yet fiction is often an assessment of culture and social mores. Culture and social mores may be intangible, but they are nonetheless real. They have a profound effect on people’s lives– particularly those of people who don’t have the luxury of unthinkingly accepting the social mores with which they’re surrounded. I think a lot of scientists don’t understand this. And I don’t think it’s at all settled that an English instructor who teaches superstitious nonsense will do less damage than a science instructor who does the same.

        • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

          First of all, please tell me you haven’t been thinking about this for over a year!!! Nothing I say is ever supposed to be taken that seriously (if at all! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

          Second, I’m sorry that you think you’re being insulted, but that is totally not my intention. I never said or implied anything negative at all – not one word – about the value or impact of literature or of English as a subject, nor did I ever suggest that people who study English automatically believe in astrology. All I did was to highlight the distinction between science teachers as people who teach you facts and English teachers as people who teach you the interpretation of fiction and myths.

  10. Beth says:

    OMG! I’m not a Capricorn anymore! I don’t even know what a Sagittarius is supposed to be like! Hopefully it will be a list of generic positive characteristics that can apply to anyone!

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Hang on, I’ll check your horoscope for you.

      It says:

      “Sagiattarius: beware of Aquarius friends! They may be bearing alcohol instead of water, and they will make you get drunk tonight!”

      But of course, it’s all nonsense.

  11. Catherine says:

    Totally with you on the “but we’re scientists!!” incredulity. My old boss was so militant in this regard that she claimed she’d never employ a religious person. While my nonsense threshold is way higher than this, I was still shocked at lunch this week when none of my labmates echoed my snort of derision at the news that someone’s friend had consulted a “seer”. Psychics? Really?? Makes you see your respected colleagues in a whole new light, especially given that at last week’s lab meeting we were all comparing our Chinese zodiac signs….

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      WOW. That’s outrageous – and probably illegal! I’ve never heard of anyone being quite so militant! As long as people don’t try to convert their co-workers, it’s a private matter…

      Psychics? Wow. At least horoscopes are (usually) free. I would definitely have a hard time taking anyone seriously who paid good money to see a psychic.

  12. rpg says:

    I’m hoping my sign is the same as it was. It’s important to my identity.

    I’m ‘slippery when wet’.

  13. ricardipus says:

    I am routinely saddened by the proliferation of psychics operating out of storefronts over the last 10 years or so. What a waste of money.

    As for astrology… can I throw in the “Chinese zodiac” as well? Everyone born in the same year? Gimme a break.*

    *possibly slightly bitter because I’m a flaming sheep, apparently.

  14. Catherine says:

    Yes, we pointed that out at the time. And her resolve crumbled when the smartest new student of the year turned out to be a card-carrying churchgoer, with no apparent ill effects on rational thought!

    The best horoscope ever was one my mum read in a French magazine – after the usual waffling around with vague niceties: “Chute de cheval possible”. Whoa! Made us giggle…. and hopefully didn’t actually prevent any horse riding fans from saddling up that day….

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Glad to hear it!

      When I was an undergrad, our campus paper would print the most hilarious horoscopes. I remember one of mine: “you will feel an uncontrollable urge to put kitty litter through a neighbour’s mail box on Tuesday”. The funny thing was, they kept coming true for a friend of mine – many weeks in a row! (Not the kitty litter though, he was a different sign)

  15. Massimo says:

    So, I am laying on a massage bed, the massage therapist trying to alleviate the discomfort of a chronically bad back, she presses down like she is making gnocchi, my face is a grimace of pain, I want to scream for mercy when out of the blue she goes “By the way, I was going to ask you, since you told me you are in the sciences… are you guys ever going to accept astrology ?”…

    • cromercrox says:

      ๐Ÿ™‚ Nothing like adding one insult to another!

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:


      What did you tell her? That you’ll accept it when it passes a single scientific test? Or that she was completely right, it’s a travesty of the highest order, and oh by the way please don’t hurt me?

  16. Heather says:

    I know I am ages too late on this, but so were the people interested in astrology relative to the phenomenon of procession.

    I had a niggling desire to write a blog post about the poor astronomy professor who found himself inundated with requests for interviews and being quoted out of context etc. etc. and it all just slipped past and the world went on just fine without THAT post, too. I’m glad you got to it in a different form.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      I hadn’t heard that part of the story! You should still blog it, anyway – the more mockery, the better.

  17. Mike says:

    I was a Libra, but Librans don’t believe in all that shit so there’s no point checking to see if I still am.

    I’ve come across remarkably few friends or colleagues who actually believe in astrology. But if you’re still unsure about ridiculing believers about this stuff, just ask them if they realise that your gravitational field has (milky) waaaay more physical influence on them than any of the other heavenly bodies they feel so controlled by. Incidentally, your body may (or may not, we’ve never met) be heavenly.

    It’s true, astrology may be BS, but it does have the best dodgy pick up lines!

  18. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    HAHAHA, you should see all the spammy horoscope comments (one for each sign of the zodiac) in the back end! Targeted marketing FAIL!

  19. ruchi says:

    Be glad you’re not Indian … they are known for taking superstitions to extremes. A couple years ago, my mom, who was per usual very stressed out that I was not married, talked to some sort of guru about me and he said (without meeting me, mind you) that he could tell I had a bad aura which was why I was not married. And if she wanted, he could wipe my aura clean for the very reasonable sum of $1000.

    Thankfully my mom said no (though I do wonder if she only said no because she knew there was no way I’d submit to getting my aura ‘wiped.’)

  20. SHADOW says:

    Horoscopes suck im taurus and its all wrong.STUPID ASTRLOGERS WHEN WILL THEY LEARN!!!! HOROSCOPES ARENT REAL!!

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